GIJoe's nostalga-driven renaissance has lasted longer than most of the '80s properties they came back with. Why's that? Couldn't really say. He-Man failed to click with a new generation of kids, and the Transformers have relegated their realistic-looking vehicles to a specialty line. Maybe GIJoe can attribute its life to the fact that the modern line isn't a reboot or re-imagining, but a direct continuation of the story started two decades ago, and perhaps no character better exemplifies that than the ninja trainee Kamakura.
When Kamakura first appeared in the new GIJoe miniseries from Image Comics and Devil's Due in 2001, nobody knew he'd actually debuted 17 years earlier in issue #30 of Marvel's comic. Hell, nobody even knew he was a white kid from the suburbs.
Kamakura has proven to be one of the biggest successes of the GIJoe relaunch. He was one of the first new characters to get an action figure, and has had four versions since. He even made it into the second series of Sigma 6.
In the Sigma 6 line, characters are divided into two separate yet equally important groups: the Commando series that come in a large plastic tube with a footlocker and extra accessories, and the Soldier series, which are cheaper and packed in blisters. Kamakura was in the first wave of Soldiers, which was the second series overall. Make sense?
Kamakura actually looks more like a ninja than his mentor, Snake-Eyes, does. Though most of his body looks like the rest of the S6 figures, but he's got wraps on his shins and forearms, a face mask that covers his jaw and nose, a sash and a headband with the traditional metal forehead protector. His loincloth and the tie of his headband are real cloth and he's wearing tabi boots. This kid is ninja'd up.
Almost all the Sigma 6 figures have the same articulation: balljointed head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles, plus a hinge in his chest and a peg waist. The joints click into place, so he'll hold whatever ninja pose you want to give him, but there's one he can't get. The way the wrists are constructed - a hinge leads into his hand and a peg goes into the arm - duplicates most of the range of a true balljoint, but you can't move his hand sideways to point his sword at an enemy.
The design and articulation are good, but there is a problem: the paint. Oh, it's applied well - it's just wrong. Kamakura is wearing black and yellow, making him look like the world's most dedicated cab driver. Thing is, the running joke was that Hawk, the Joes' commander, didn't like the idea of the secret Special Forces team going all ninja again, and refered to Special K, here, as "the Green Power Ranger." Green, not yellow. And his hair is red, not sandy blonde. Both of those will be easy to fix with a little customization.
Despite being in the
"less accessories" half of the line, Kamakura is loaded down with goodies. Not counting his sash, goggles and dogtags, he's got about a dozen additional parts, most of which are really cool. We'll start with the dumbest piece first, a spring-loaded missile launcher that fits on his arm and fires a bolo. It's large, clunky, and just doesn't belong with a silent warrior of the night. Shouldn't a ninja have, oh, say, ninja weapons?
Turns out he does.
Kamakura can arm himself with a katana, bo staff, mace, throwing star or pair of kama blades. A handle folds out of the bo so it can double as a tonfa stick, and the star expands from three blades to six. If that's not enough, he can also combine them: the figure includes four connector pins that allow you to plug the weapons together.
Hang the mace off the hilt of the sword. Use the chain to create a set of bladed nunchucks. Make a spear out of the staff and the sword. You can do whatever you want, and it's damn cool. Good thing he has 26 ports to plug weapons into scattered about his costume, but it's still a shame Kamakura doesn't have a footlocker to hold it.
So what's Kamakura's story, and how did he appear 17 years before anyone met him? his name is Sean, and he's the son of Fred Broca, one of the original Crimson Guards and the template for the entire "Fred series" - CGs who received plastic surgery to become identical. When his father was killed in a battle with GIJoe, Cobra sent the family a replacement, Fred II. Fred II was actually Wade Collins, an old acquaintence of Snake-Eyes and Stalker. When he got tired of life as a Cobra soldier, he took up his old name and escaped with his new family into obscure suburban life.
When Sean expressed interest in enlisting in the army, Wade suggested that he write Snake-Eyes and ask him about his life in the service. After their paths crossed on a disastrous mission, Snake-Eyes began training Sean in the way of the ninja. When he was inducted into the Arashikage clan, Sean chose the name Kamakura, after the historical peroid when the clan had its greatest influence. And thus the suburban white kid, whose family was introduced (and immediately forgotten) in a subplot decades ago, became a ninja assassin.
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